Bourgeois chutzpah

Level: Jedi Knight

Written by Daniella White, who is also the author of this Numberwang from January, where she misses asking any questions about denominators or the relationship between numbers of Covid tests and positive cases but simply reports government statistics as if they actually meant anything useful.

So, Daniella is clearly one of the intended targets of this article.

People’s poor understanding of statistics resulted in misinformation and “fake news” spreading throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers say, as a study calls for changes to how mathematics is taught in schools.

Schools? Yes, those things we shut down for months at a time.

Australian Catholic University Professor of Mathematics Education Vincent Geiger, who co-authored the research, said more needed to be done to teach students how to critically interpret statistics like those published during the pandemic.

Not just students. Also every media outlet that ever published a percentage without an accompanying denominator, or a case fatality rate without comparing it to the ‘flu and the caveat we don’t test for ‘flu.

“Mathematics and statistics were used in the media like almost never before over COVID-19,” Geiger said.

Yes, we can all agree with that statement., unfortunately.

“What does flattening the curve actually mean?

Yes, we wrote about how the conversation quietly changed about that here, turns out it means whatever we want it to mean and we’ll stop using it as our strategy without telling anyone.

He said schools also needed to do more to help students scrutinise whether sources were credible, and the media should provide links to original sources of statistics and information quoted in articles.

Agreed. It kind of infers the churnalists understand numbers though. Big assumption, there.

Geiger said unless key skills were addressed at school, there was a real danger that students would grow up to be adults at risk of accepting “fake news”.

You see that tall mast disappearing over the horizon? That’s the ship that’s sailed already.

One example was misinterpretation of vaccine effectiveness data. While raw data might show a higher raw number of deaths and infections among the vaccinated population when most people have been vaccinated, the rate of infection and death in unvaccinated people is still higher.

“The numbers may appear simple, but they’re not, they’re what we would call composite variables,” she said.

Oh, I feel this might be a topic to which there will be many unhappy returns this year…..

Bennett said people should defer to the experts in the field to explain data and not necessarily attempt to draw conclusions from statistics for themselves.

Really? Do they have some computer models? They’re always very persuasive and worked out really well for us.

Bill’s Opinion

The fucking chutzpah and irony of a journalist writing an article bemoaning a lack of numeracy and critical thinking.

Anyone who, after the last two and half years, ever again finds themselves reading a data point in a newspaper without assuming it’s 180 degrees incorrect, should consider wearing a sign or some kind of symbol to let the rest of us know to avoid them.

Oh, they do already. It’s called a face mask.

2 Replies to “Bourgeois chutzpah”

  1. It’s just a really long winded way to say “Stop believing your lying eyes!” I think they’re genuinely surprised that people a) have a bullshit detector* and b) it works. Admittedly that is a vanishingly small percentage of the population, but we all know which side of the barbed wire we would have ended up on and why.

    * Because clearly they don’t.

  2. William, I may not be a mathmetician, but when the reporting went from percentages to totals it did look suspicious. They started to say more have died of covid than the Spanish flu. But the Spanish flu killed about 10% of those who caught it as I remember. Covid was only ever going to harvest a small number of susceptible victims and then just be another wog for the winter time. So I’m a hard hearted bastard, and I say just let it go. I’ll take my chances, after all what’s the worst that can happen. You’re going to die from something, and personally I think it might as well be cirrhosis, I’ll have enjoyed getting there.

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